While herb gardens are all the rage, many don’t realize that spices like Ginger are just as easy to grow. The Ginger plant itself has elegant spear-shaped fronds, which makes it an attractive houseplant. The Ginger we eat and cook with is the rhizome, or “root”, of this plant.
Ginger typically grows in tropical regions, which is why it’s such a staple in Asian dishes. But it can be successfully grown indoors in colder regions too. If you plan to grow Ginger at home, look out for common issues like root rot or yellow leaves, as they can negatively impact your harvest.
Ginger plant leaves may turn yellow due to diseases such as bacterial wilt or fusarium yellows, a nitrogen deficiency, or the plant entering winter dormancy. To save your Ginger leaves after turning yellow, fertilize every 2-3 weeks to boost nitrogen and store your plant in a cool dark space for the winter. Unfortunately, there is no cure for bacterial wilt or fusarium yellows.
Let’s look at the symptoms of each of these issues so you can properly diagnose your Ginger plant’s yellow leaves.
Bacterial Wilt of Ginger Symptoms
Bacterial wilt is a plant disease caused by several different bacterial pathogens. The bacteria is spread through infected soil and rhizomes. If you’re growing Ginger at home, the bacteria may have traveled from a nursery, from other plants, or through your bagged soil. It enters the rhizome and roots through wounds and cracks, then travels to the rest of the plant.
The first sign of bacterial wilt is a stage called “green wilt”. The leaves do not change color, but the tips will curl and the leaf will wilt. This is a stress reaction from the bacteria blocking the Ginger stem’s vascular system.
Next, the leaves start to yellow—a sign that they are beginning to die. Sometimes this yellowing is confused with another Ginger plant disease called fusarium yellows. Bacterial wilt can be identified more accurately by cutting open the rhizomes. If it’s bacterial wilt, you will see bacterial ooze which has a gooey, milky appearance.
How To Treat Bacterial Wilt in Ginger
Unfortunately, there is no cure for bacterial wilt. Chemical sprays are not effective against this bacteria, and it will eventually spread to all parts of your plant. It’s sadly the end of the road for your Ginger plant.
Since the bacteria can live in soil, and on gardening equipment, you need to sterilize these surfaces to prevent the bacteria from spreading to your other plants. Sterilize any gardening tools and pots with a household sanitizer like Lysol or chlorine bleach. Make sure they are rinsed with water afterwards to prevent these chemicals from harming your plants.
Signs of Fusarium Yellows
Fusarium yellows is a fungal disease specific to the Ginger plant. Like bacterial wilt, it is spread through the soil from unhealthy seeds or tubers. The fungus can affect Ginger in two ways. If the fungus penetrates the Ginger rhizome first, new shoots won’t be able to grow and the plant will quickly die.
If the fungus finds its way into the plant through wounds or cracks rather than through the rhizome, the plant’s decline will be slower. The Ginger plant will have stunted growth and the leaves will turn yellow. Often, this will affect the lower leaves first. It can take months for the entire plant to turn yellow while the rhizomes below the soil rot.
This slow decline is what makes this disease so dangerous. Often gardeners don’t realize the extent of the damage until it is too late.
How to Treat Fusarium Yellows
Like with bacterial wilt, there is no known cure for fusarium yellows. Since this disease is often spread through infected seeds, it’s important to do your due diligence before planting. Check your seeds for any signs of cracks or rot. Cut open seeds and check the insides as well.
As for your Ginger plant, it will need to be disposed of. Ensure you sterilize all your gardening equipment with a household disinfectant or chlorine bleach.
What Deficiency Makes Leaves Yellow?
Fortunately, yellow leaves are not always fatal. Sometimes the issue is a simple missing nutrient, which you can easily remedy.
Nitrogen deficiency is a common issue with Ginger plants. Ginger plants generally prefer a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as a 10-20-20 fertilizer. Nitrogen’s primary job is to help plants grow leaves. While this may be great for a houseplant like Monsteras, it’s not necessary for Ginger since the plant is grown for its rhizomes.
However, if your Ginger plant doesn’t receive enough nitrogen, the leaves will begin to yellow due to a lack of chlorophyll.
Since Ginger plants grown in containers require more watering, a lot of these essential nutrients like nitrogen get washed away. Fertilize your potted Ginger plants every 2-3 weeks to keep it happy and ensure it receives the nutrients it needs.
What Happens When Ginger Enters Dormancy?
If you live in a cooler climate, the lack of light and warmth that comes with winter weather will trigger your Ginger plant to enter dormancy. Ginger goes dormant once temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C). Ginger also naturally goes dormant during periods of drought. So if you accidentally underwater your plant for too long, this may signal it to enter dormancy too.
When a Ginger plant goes dormant, the leaves begin to yellow and die. The rhizome will stay alive as long as temperatures remain above 32°F (0°C).
Should Ginger Plants Be Cut Back?
If your Ginger plant has gone dormant, there’s no need to prune it. Simply remove the dead leaves and stop watering the plant completely. You can store your Ginger plant in a cool dark space like a closet until springtime. Once the sunlight increases and warm temperatures return, you can resume watering your Ginger and the plant should sprout new leaves!
Can Yellow Leaves Turn Green Again?
Once a leaf turns yellow, there is very little chance it will revert back to green. Yellowing is unfortunately one of the first signs of death. Once a plant realizes a leaf is dying, it begins to harvest any leftover energy in that leaf. This natural process cannot be stopped once it has started.
The only exception is if the yellowing is caused by a nutrient deficiency. Nutrient deficiencies like a lack of nitrogen halt the production of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what produces the green color in plants. If the plant receives fertilizer to correct the deficiency, chlorophyll production will resume and the leaf may turn green again.
How Often Should Ginger Plants Be Watered?
Ginger plants grown in containers tend to be on the thirsty side, and need regular, deep watering. About an inch of water once a week should be sufficient. Make sure you do not let the soil get waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot. A well-draining soil mix and a pot with a drainage hole are key.
If you find your soil is drying out too often, you can add mulch to the base of your Ginger plant to help it retain moisture.
Does Ginger Like Sun or Shade?
Ginger is a tropical plant that grows in and around rainforests. It can tolerate shade but does not like full sun. Indoor Ginger plants should be placed in an area with regular, indirect light. Keep your Ginger plant out of the rays of the harsh afternoon sun. Too little sunlight is better for this plant than too much. Some species can survive with as little as two hours of light a day.
Although Ginger is a relatively easy plant to care for, some issues such as yellow leaves are common. Ensure your yellow leaves are not caused by diseases like bacterial wilt or fusarium yellows, as these diseases are lethal with no cure. Yellow leaves may also be caused by a lack of nitrogen, which can be treated by fertilizing your plant once every 2-3 weeks.
If your Ginger plant leaves are yellowing in autumn, it may just be because your plant is entering dormancy. Store your Ginger plant in a cool dark space for the winter, and it will regrow leaves in the spring!